Articles > > The Tenth pm

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2020-07-27
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The Tunisians are preparing to inaugurate the tenth prime minister of their second [post-2011] republic.
 
The average duration of Tunisia's post-revolution governments is no higher than the historical average duration of Jordan's governments during its first 100 years as a state. Tunisia is neck-on-neck with Jordan at the top of the list of countries with the highest turnover in governments and prime ministers.
 
Governmental instability in Tunisia is understandable; parties are fragmented and confidence in them is eroding. Even the Ennahda party, which has an Islamist authority [the Muslim Brotherhood] backing it and was the partisan frontrunner in the last elections, has lost over two-thirds of its vote over the past decade, and only succeeded in maintaining first place due to the fragmentation of the civilian current's parties and those of the old [military] regime.
 
Internal and external factors have combined to create a state of instability and prolong it, in large part because the Tunisians are scattered across a partisan mosaic (200 plus political parties) and the fact that ten transitional years have been insufficient for Tunisia to shift from the fluid state of unbridled partisan pluralism, to the institutionalization of a stable party system.
 
Between the power struggles among currents with differing backgrounds, visions, and program, some of which follow a no tolerance/cancel culture, their poor knowledge of managing public affairs, and the 'economic pandemic' that successive governments have failed to contain, not a single strategic project has been inaugurated in Tunisia since [former president] Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime was toppled [in 2011].
 
If the accusations that Ennahda, or branches of it, are responsible for the [2013] assassinations of MP Mohamed Brahmi and leftist leader Chokri Belaid are true, this there is a strain of exterminators in Ennahda that is more dangerous than the secular crowd of isolationists and exterminators that ardently long for the return of the old [Ben Ali] regime and its deep state. In other words, Ennahda's moderation and modernity have failed to curb the impact of 'the doctrine of empowerment' and 'secret service' that privileges the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization over the state, and the Islamist ummah [nation] over the national priorities of the country and people.
 
The Tunisian debate belies signs of what may be termed a setback in Ennahda's political discourse and conduct, perhaps driven by Turkey's victories under Erdogan in Syria, Iraq, the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, and Bab al-Mandab. Throughout its modern 'civil' discourse, Ennahda has kept pace with the rise of the AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party) in Turkey, its endorsement approaches that reconcile Islam and 'secular' democracy, and its 'zero problems' foreign policy.
  
Will it continue to keep pace as Turkey transitions from soft to hard tools, the religious-sectarian element grows in its discourse (Hagia Sophia is the latest example), its secular strongholds are demolished, and it tends towards a totalitarian presidential system with unlimited powers instead of the parliamentary system in place for decades?
 
The crisis in Tunisia cannot be fully grasped without looking at the bigger picture of the conflict between the warring regional axes. Ennahda is not the only party emboldened by the victories of a particular regional axis, or that receives financial, spiritual, and PR support from its pillars. Certain forces and parties affiliated with the secular civilian current are nourished via another regional axis's umbilical cord, and they rely on similar networks of financial, spiritual, and PR aid provided by that axis.
 
President Qais Saeed's battle to save the state, distance it from the 'wars of the axes', and tone down the harsh speeches and practices of the most fiercely contentious local parties is not an easy one at all, especially amid climates of regional polarization. He has threatened to take measures (against Ennahda, as implied) and criticized parliament's obstruction on the part of the Free Destourian Party.
 
He has lashed out against one party after the other, and in return, has sustained blows from all sides, most recently from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has apparently become convinced that its wager on devouring the elected president or hiding in his shadow was misplaced.